Dear Teenage Sales Clerk, I Am Neither Your “Honey” nor Your “Sweetie!”

I admit it, I am old-fashioned. Long before it was “age-appropriate,” I started making statements that either started or ended with a phrase similar to, “What is with these young people today!?!?”

Why can’t people have conversations face-to-face anymore? Why do tween girls need to look like they are in their 20s. Why do kids today call their teachers by their first names? What is wrong with giving a kid an “F” if he actually failed a test or assignment?

If I am being honest, I have to admit that at times, I am merely showing my antiquated views on society. I can be a bit behind the times.

But, when talking about young teen and twenty-something girls today, I know that I am right in saying that there is one trend that simply must be stopped. Since when did it become OK for them refer to anyone, especially their elders, superiors, or a customer at their place of employment, as “honey” or  “sweetie?”

I cannot go into a restaurant or store anymore without a teenage or twenty-something female employee using one of those terms.

“Can I help you find your size “honey?”

“Would you like a table or a booth, sweetie?”

“Can a start a dressing room for you, hon?”

“I’ll be right with you, sweetie.”

When I was growing up, we bristled at the very thought of being called one of those words.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not coming from a place of extreme feminism. It is about respect. Unless you are talking to a loved one, those words are demeaning.

I am just trying to imagine what would have happened to me if, in one of my teenage jobs, I had called a customer “sweetie” or “honey.” I’m fairly certain that I would have been fired. More importantly, had I called a female boss or colleague in corporate America one of those words, I know that I would have run into some major problems. That would have been career suicide.

Do these girls’ mothers, fathers, teachers, bosses, etc. know that they are talking to people this way?

If you have a teenage daughter, ask her if she thinks this is acceptable? If so, nip it in the bud immediately. She will never be taken seriously if she considers this acceptable… especially in a professional environment!

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go put my soap box back in the closet…

What do you think of this new trend? Is it new, or am I just now noticing it? Do you think I sound like your grandma?

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    • says

      I agree – I would prefer “ma’am.”

      Your story reminds me of the time a rep from a cosmetic counter stopped me in the mall, pointed out the beginnings of crows feet around my eyes, and offered to help me look 10 years younger. I asked how old she thought I was, she said 32… I responded, “I’m actually 42, so I guess I already look 10 years younger.” She just sort of stood there with her mouth open unsure what to say. 😀

    • says

      Monique, I do live in the South, but my folks are midwesterners, so we were taught to use last names instead of first. But, you are right about that being a common phrase down here – I don’t think it bothers me as much when someone older than me says it to me – but when a teenager or 20-something says it to me in, what for them, is a professional environment, it just drives me CRAZY.

      I guess I am just getting old. 🙂

      Thanks for the reality check!

  1. says

    For me I’m just happy when a cashier, server,etc treats me nicely. I have notice that most employees are massively lacking basic customer service skill. As for the “name calling” I haven’t noticed it here locally, but I agree it is slightly rude.

  2. Gabrielle says

    I unequivocally agree with Dianne and the other bloggers who are repulsed by such bad approaches.
    I am a middle-aged conservative-looking European-born teacher; and have been living in the U.S. for the past 17 years. Since I study and teach about cultures, I’ll refer to this trend here not only from a personal point of view but also as a generic commentary on the familiar approach by strangers — and the real meaning of the (demeaning) use of “sweetie”, “honey”, “sweetheart”, etc. It is clearly not an expression of friendliness but one of liberal aggressiveness — as I noticed it to be ubiquitous in NYC. Moreover, in Texas where I live now there is an amazing gap between sales persons of all ages addressing customers with either the most wonderful polite forms of address, or those using these preposterous nicknames — based on stores you are in. The more “free-minded” (or low-end) a store staff perceives itself the more they tend to lack in respect…. A pity, as some stores I actually like (Black& White, Macy’s, Soma, Bloomingdale’s) have great merchandise but I’ve avoided them in order to avoid what I perceive as annoyance/harassment from sales reps. It applies to restaurants and hotels, too. And, frankly, I’ve seen in American movies that “sweetie” and the like (uttered on a certain tone) is how female-street-workers address each other!… add to it a new trend initiated by the Dallas Anthropology store: sign your first name on the mirror in the dressing room; when I refused the vulgar suggestion, I was told by the sales rep serving me that it was mandatory…, I had to verify with the store manager that I was not being forced to be either be addressed by my first name by the sales strangers, nor to leave my mark in lipsticks on their mirrors. Which way is this trend going, and how does it want to make decent customers feel like? So… it seems to be a not-so-stupid socio-economic-oriented sales trend, but a ultraliberal one. It contains some serious hostility too since when I told sales reps I disliked their calling me “honey” they got visibly upset under their fake smiles. A pity, again, since these venues are going to lose many customers who are more likely to spend more. Needless to say in Europe (and most places in the world, I believe) this sales attitude would be unacceptable at least from a marketing viewpoint.

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